The Green Line in Cyprus

The United Nations takes over.....early days

At the start of 1964, Britain was militarily stretched by actions in Aden and East Africa and declared itself unwilling to act indefinitely as policeman.
In the light of these issues, the 'London Conference' was organised for the 15th January 1964.



Duncan Sandys addressing the London Conference at Marlborough House in January 1964

Duncan Sandys, once more in the chair, stressed the urgency of finding a workable solution to the island's problems.
Unfortunately, the conference broke up in mutual recrimination and increased hostility.

Fighting between the communities spread to Limassol, Paphos and other areas.
Alarmed by these developments, Britain proposed a NATO led peacekeeping force but this was considered unacceptable by President Makarios.
After much debate and behind the scenes negotiations, it was agreed on the 4th March 1964 that a multinational United Nations peacekeeping force would be sent to the island.



U Thant announces the unanimous adoption of Resolution 186 on the 4th March 1964

UNFICYP (United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus) was formally established on the 27th March 1964 with a three month mandate.
The mandate of UNFICYP was originally defined as: "…in the interest of preserving international peace and security, to use its best efforts to prevent a recurrence of fighting and, as necessary, to contribute to the maintenance and restoration of law and order and a return to normal conditions." 

A few days after the formal establishment of UNFICYP, the Canadian aircraft carrier "HMCS Bonaventure" arrived at the Famagusta docks.
The carrier, which brought a further 95 officers to join the Canadian contingent  also carried 16 Ferret armoured cars, 36 trucks and trailers and 160 tons of stores for the Canadian troops.



A Ferret armoured car is unloaded from the Canadian aircraft carrier in the Famagusta docks.........dated 30th March 1964



A silent video showing the arrival and early deployment of Canadian UN troops.....courtesy of Pathé News

Until the UN force, comprising troops and civilian police, was operational, British troops wore the 'Blue Beret' and patrolled alone.



British UN troops patrol along Hermes Street in central Nicosia.........dated March 1964



British UN troops patrolling the Turkish quarter and an Observation Point in Limassol.......dated April 1964

The 'Blue Berets' were deployed all across the island in areas of close military confrontation (not just in the Nicosia area). Observation Posts and mobile patrols were used in areas of intercommunal sensitivity (such as the few remaining mixed villages) and close liaison was maintained with all levels of both communities.



Canadian UN troops patrol Kyrenia and observe from Trakhomas (Trachonas) at the northern edge of Nicosia

Barely a week after the Canadians deployed, there was serious fighting in the Kyrenia Mountains. On the 4th April 1964 Greek Cypriot forces captured a Turkish position close to the strategically important St Hilarion Castle (this area controlled the road from Nicosia to Kyrenia).



Greek Cypriot forces celebrate the capture of a Turkish position near St Hilarion Castle

Over the next three weeks, the Greek Cypriots attempted to take St Hilarion Castle itself but the Turkish Cypriot forces continued to hold out.
Canadian troops created permanent UNFICYP posts with the forward troops of both sides and this acted as a deterrent to any further offensive action.
By the end of April, newsmen who visited the battle area around the castle west of the pass noted that the positions of the two sides had not changed basically since the Greek Cypriots began their surprise assault.



A newsreel  (without commentary) filmed around St Hilarion Castle showing Greek Cypriot forces close to the castle and looking south towards Nicosia
There is a view of the small Turkish Cypriot airstrip in the enclave north of Nicosia and Canadian UN troops (22nd Regiment)


One area where UN troops were permanently deployed, Ayios Theodoros and Kophinou, were to become the focus of world attention in the coming years.



British UN Troops in the village of Ayios Theodoros (behind the Turkish school and escorting a Greek Cypriot across the bridge between the two communities).........dated 27th April 1964



Author's note: Today, at locations across the island you can still see the remains of earlier UN presence

A summary of events across the island in May 1964 records 14 serious incidents resulting in 11 deaths and 12 woundings. The report states that this does not include the daily exchanges of fire (especially in the northern suburbs of Nicosia). 
Special arrangements have been made to supervise the harvesting as there is a, "predilection of both sides for picking off lone farmers in their fields, nice easy safe targets".

By the end of May 1964, a UN force of 6400 men from nine countries was on the island.
Their next major challenge was the outbreak of fighting in August 1964 around two small Turkish enclaves (Kokkina & Mansoura) on the the north-west coast.
Turkish jets bombed Greek Cypriot naval ships and positions in the area that were being used for an attack against the enclaves.






Newspaper headline of the time describes the fighting around Mansoura
Turkish Cypriots defend the enclave of Kokkina and Turkish jets attack a Greek Cypriot patrol boat
During the fighting, Pakhyammos was heavily bombed by Turkish jets causing extensive damage




A silent video showing the aftermath of the bombing around Pakyyammos..........courtesy of Pathé News

Fortunately, such incidents were rare but the frequency of hostage taking by both sides, the problems of movement between towns and villages and the removal of emplacements & fortifications kept the UN forces extremely busy. There was a continuing economic blockade of the Turkish Cypriot community and many essential items were severely rationed and in short supply. Additionally, all throughout this period there was the constant threat of a Turkish invasion which added to the already tense atmosphere.
Note: An invasion would have been extremely difficult as, at that time, the Turkish military didn't have any landing craft.

In October 1964 the direct road to Kyrenia (which passed through a stategically important Turkish enclave north of Nicosia) was re-opened for use by Greek Cypriots. However, travel was only allowed with a UN escort. All vehicles were thoroughly searched before being allowed to join the convoy.



Pictures of the first escorted Kyrenia convoy on Monday 26th October 1964 photographed by Col John Sale